Republicans Launch Second Attack on Local D.C. Marijuana Policies, Norton to Testify at Hearing

Apr 22, 2014
Press Release

WASHINGTON, DC – In an effort to stop what could be the first step to overturn the District of Columbia’s local marijuana decriminalization legislation, Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-DC) will testify at a hearing of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee’s Subcommittee on Government Operations in May on legislation passed by D.C. decriminalizing marijuana.  Norton will announce that she will testify at the hearing at the Drug Policy Alliance reception this evening celebrating the passage of D.C.’s marijuana decriminalization legislation, a victory for D.C. residents and the cause of racial justice.  The hearing comes four years after Norton succeeded in her 11-year fight to remove the Republican-led appropriations rider that prohibited the District from legalizing medical marijuana. 

Norton said that she was surprised to learn of a hearing that will single out the District’s locally passed law.  Norton said, “It is appropriate for Congress to examine how the Obama administration will enforce the federal prohibition on marijuana in jurisdictions that have legalized or decriminalized it, as the subcommittee has done in two hearings this Congress.  It is also appropriate to examine whether the federal marijuana prohibition preempts such local laws, but no local officials were called to testify at those hearings.  It is inappropriate to hold a hearing on the local marijuana laws of only one jurisdiction, the District of Columbia, when 18 states have decriminalized marijuana, 21 states have legalized medical marijuana and two states have legalized marijuana.  There is nothing that distinguishes the District from these states except for Congress’s illegitimate power to overturn the democratically enacted local laws of the District.  What is clear is that the enforcement of marijuana laws here and throughout the country has a disproportionately unfair effect on African American men and boys, leaving them with criminal records that often cripple them for the rest of their lives.”

In a break with Republicans’ recent treatment of the District’s only member of Congress, Norton said she appreciates that Representative John Mica (R-FL), chair of the Subcommittee on Government Operations, will allow her to testify at the hearing.  In the last two Congresses, Norton has been denied the right to testify by the House Judiciary Committee’s Subcommittee on the Constitution and Civil Justice, contrary to the traditional congressional courtesy permitting Members of Congress to testify.  Particularly unfair, Norton said, was the denial of her request to testify on a bill that would have banned abortions in only D.C. after 20 weeks of pregnancy.  While Norton, a senior member of the Oversight and Government Reform Committee, is not a member of the subcommittee, as member of the full committee, she will join members of the subcommittee in asking questions of witnesses.

D.C.’s decriminalization legislation has been transmitted to Congress and is undergoing a 60-day legislative review period.  The legislation will take effect at the end of that period unless Congress and the President disapprove it.  Norton and her allies are preparing to defeat any attempt by Congress to block this local law.

Published: April 22, 2014